The Belgian exhibit at the 11th International Exposition of Architecture, “Out There – Architecture Beyond Building”, at the 2008 la Biennale di Venezia was an extraordinary and very educational part of a world-class event.
The exhibit was entitled “1907…After the Party”
The Belgian Pavilion, the first foreign pavilion constructed in the Public Garden, was built in 1907 to a design by Brussels architect Leon Sneyers. For this Biennale, the Pavilion was completely concealed from passersby within a 24 foot high metal screen wall system.
The lush garden trees and foliage finished an other-world setting, far removed from the bustle of the City. The design of the screen wall was so neutral, scale-less, and without distracting features that it was virtually incapable of being photographed or attracting attention. The space between the screen wall and the Belgian Pavilion allowed visitors to circulation around the entire building perimeter for an unobscured view of the place.
The interior of the all-white Pavilion was also white, and empty except for colorful confetti strewn everywhere – the detritus left from the party – a few scattered chairs, and a small explanatory display. Notes from the display are the source of quotes within the following description of my experience there and my reaction to it. The display is represented in volume 4, “Participating Countries, Special and Collateral Events”
The Pavilion was the exhibit, “a tribute to the historical pavilion”.
This was clearly the scene of a party, a party celebrating not the architects selected to design the exhibit for that Biennale (the Flemish firm Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen), but instead celebrating the centennial of a remarkable early modern building that has withstood the test of time, a centennial that had been overlooked at the time of its actual occurence the year prior, a “celebration that never took place”.
Evidence of the party was tracked back out into the vast Giardini on damp shoe soles, and distributed by the attendees in varying quantities into many of the other exhibit pavilions. The surprise was the extent to which the confetti was also found in small quantities at locations all around Venice!
If you had visited the Pavilion, you knew where the distinctive confetti had originated, and could recollect the memory, the architecture and its celebration. If you had not yet visited it, you could only wonder about the party you had missed, as evidenced by the scattered confetti, until you discovered its source at the Belgian Pavilion.
A simple and elegant celebration of a remarkable “place”, curated with great humility by a team of outstanding “century younger” architects in recognition of a great design that had served its purpose with dignity and accommodated 100 years of ever-changing contents on public display, sublimating itself with humility to showing a nation’s pride of design and advances in recreating cities ravaged by war, products, art and buildings.
The exhibition designers’ intent was to put the pavilion “on show in its purest form as a monument, accessible from all sides, empty and stripped of all secondary additions.”
A Point to Ponder
What in the background places, environment, buildings, art, event, community action and people have created your community, serving with quiet excellence in humility for many years without recognition, often with far more than merely benign neglect?
A Call to Action
Consider how a simple but elegant commemoration of a special attribute of your community may encourage your community and its members to further positive action, to a Reformation of what has drifted off-course or been neglected, to a Renaissance in design, arts, “place”, leadership and civility with which to gift the long future?
Even if an appropriate “anniversary” has been forgotten or simply passed by without remark, the party at the Belgian Pavilion teaches us that it is never to late to celebrate and uplift the makers of a community. That’s an excellent excuse for a party!
The good will, Recapitulation of the worth and presence of valuable resources, and Reformation involving their use and service to best serve the community builds good will and is the tracking of celebratory confetti that can catalyze an incredible community Renaissance. It’s past time, but never too late, to plan for the party, to envision how and…
Where will your community track its confetti?